"New Deal," Pastor Fred
Then Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” As if ‘fishing for people’ sounds any easier!
The miracle of the large catch of fish that nearly sank their boats, was one thing. But for Peter, and the readers of Luke’s gospel, not to mention all of us – transitioning that surprising catch, into fishing for people, is at least as daunting a task, if you think about it.
Another miracle happened this week, which is also a sign of a call, and a mission. The miracle I’m thinking of, is the first legislation to seriously tackle climate change in the USA. A bill called the, Green New Deal, was introduced simultaneously into the US House and Senate on Thursday.
One of the provision’s, calls for transforming America to 100% renewable energy, away from fossil fuels, in 10 years, as a response to the latest UN report, that that’s all the time we have to make serious change. So, I don’t know about you, but when I heard the Green New Deal announced, that send a chill up my spine! In one form or another, I’ve been waiting for politicians to get their act together like this. And not just since scientists have been warning us about global warming, not just since Al Gore’s, ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ but ever since the late 1970’s actually, when President Jimmy Carter addressed the nation from the Oval Office about the Oil Crisis then, urging Americans to conserve energy, because basically, America’s insatiable appetite for oil had to be curbed, and because, dependency on Middle Eastern oil was a national security issue.
As our family watched on TV we realized we had to do something. And like millions of Americans, we learned to turn down our thermostats, turn off the lights we weren’t using, at home, at work, and at church, and to drive less.
Unfortunately, Exon-Mobil, Shell, and all the rest, were not on board. Even though we now know they understood global warming quite well, way back then, they chose to actively work against that fact. Like the Tobacco Industry, they denied the truth to protect their bottom line. The result – climate change – has pushed us – humans, who depend on earth’s eco-systems – to the brink of climate disaster.
I naively thought that maybe Big Oil was just trying to hang on as long as possible before leading the conversion to renewables. But no, they seem to want to extract every last drop of oil first, which we now know, will be way too late.
Now, it’s life and death. 1.5 to 2 degrees warming will be disastrous. We can feel it already at almost 1 degree warming. Seasons are shifting. The extinction rate of microbes, plants, and animals is increasing exponentially. Weather at the poles has already changed, more drastically. Alaskan natives have lost their way of life for fishing and hunting, as avalanches of melting ice, frozen for eons, wash away, and seas rise, extinguishing islands, even threatening Florida and the eastern seaboard. Hurricanes, tornadoes, rain storms, wildfires, and the polar vortex, are not caused by global warming, but have become more extreme, causing property damage insurance companies have a hard time keeping up with, and families and businesses are being left behind. The poor, that Jesus calls us to liberate, are even more adversely affected.
Now, we have roughly a decade, to turn around, and make significant change. If we don’t, what is happening already, will be small potatoes compared to what is coming. As a people of faith, who believe God created this world for us, and entrusted it to our care, this change in its Stewardship, is a religious imperative, a call to arms.
I’ve been waiting for decades for someone to take it seriously, and I know you have too. The Green New Deal legislation is named after the New Deal of the 1930’s. A time when the country pulled together to save a nation drowning in the Great Depression. It also reminds me, when President Kennedy announced in 1961, before a special joint session of Congress, the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade. There were nay-sayers in both eras, and even those, who like Big Oil, actively worked against The New Deal and Mission to the moon.
But The Green New Deal, if it has the backing of the majority of Americans who say they want to see change, could work – like those challenges of the 30’s and the 60’s did.
Last week, in Luke chapter 4, we heard Jesus deliver his New Deal, his vision for change, for God’s world. He announced his game-changer in his hometown of Nazareth, a small backwater. And used a passage he picked himself from the scroll of Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."
This week, Jesus has moved on to the Sea of Galilee, to call the first of his 12 disciples, the Apostles, to be the first leaders to implement his New Deal. Jesus does, what he always will do, as he goes from town to town – though not always from a boat! He preaches Good News to the poor, releases those captive by a greedy and deceitful world, and he does it with the power of God.
On the shores of the Sea of Galilee, there are so many crowding around him to hear his message, that he asks Peter if he could step into his fishing boat to get a better perspective, and, to sit down to teach.
In order to demonstrate what he meant, he told Peter to cast his nets out on the deep side of the boat for a catch. Now, Peter is a seasoned fisherman. He had just come in from a long night’s work in which they had a bad day, catching nada, nothing, as he tells Jesus. Throwing the nets in again seemed futile to Peter, and a whole lot of extra work. Sometimes you just have to be realistic – and Peter was anxious to clean and repair the nets for work tomorrow, and head home for some well needed rest. But sitting in the boat with him, Simon can’t refuse. Calling Jesus Master, Peter consents to do as he asks, if he really wants him to.
“When they had done this,” Luke says, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. And they signaled their partners in the other boat, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, to come and help them. And they filled both boats, so that they began to sink!”
And Luke tells us, Peter’s response was to fall down at Jesus’ knees, asking for forgiveness, for doubting, in the great catch of fish. Peter just didn’t believe it could happen. Was that standing in the way? As always, Peter brings out our own human reactions, those ways that we too, find it hard to believe, having been disappointed so many times.
Jesus tells Peter, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” Forgiveness is readily at hand. But Peter may not comprehend in the moment, just what he’s got himself into! Fishing for people may not be any easier! In fact, I’m pretty sure, we too at Unity, are starting to comprehend, how it’s a much more involved task!
Jesus’ followers – wherever he goes – will continue to, be amazed, and also, doubt him – sometimes even stand in his way. And, as we know, when action is most needed, when his New Deal, the Good News of the kingdom of God, is most on the line, Peter and all the rest will deny and desert him, as he gives his life on the cross to change the world.
So, we know how human it is to run from the change God calls us to. No doubt, the Green New Deal is going to be a heavy lift. Since it was announced, we have already seen smart and trusted, wise and likeable leaders, express great reservations in the Green New Deal. But it’s been like that, since forever!
Jesus calls us from our everyday lives, of ‘business as usual,’ and our reasoned good intentions, to leave our boats on the shore, and follow a bold new vision. Entering the kingdom of God is the only thing that can save us and keep us from drowning. It’s not that hard, when we acknowledge our brokenness, and step into in the new reality of the Messiah, who shows us the fresh new waters of life.